Parents in the dock: PEGI finally goes legal in UK
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Parents in the dock: PEGI finally goes legal in UK

PEGI ratings finally become law in the UK today, forcing parents to assume responsibility for their children’s gaming. Given how clueless even the most well-meaning mums and dads can be, says Patrick Garratt, it’s not a moment too soon.

“Jesus Christ. It’s scary to think his friends, who are ten and some are nine, are playing games like this. Lord help us all.”

PEGI is law. After four years since Dr Tanya Byron delivered her report on children’s use of games and the internet, the UK has finally adopted the PEGI system for games wholesale. Retailers must now refuse to sell rated gaming products to under-age punters or face large fines, and potentially prison sentences.

It’s about time. For all the bluster surrounding the debate – with plenty claiming that parents are well aware of what an age rating means and are more used to BBFC symbols – the truth is that many mothers and fathers have no clue as to the severity of content in adult games. Byron highlighted the problem in her report, which recommended that parents get more involved in the media their children consume.

I’m a parent myself, and I’ve been a games journalist for a long time. Over the years I’ve got to know other mums and dads with games-mad children who go goggle-eyed when I say I’ve got tons of promos I don’t need any more. Every time, however, I have to make sure people understand that an age rating on a game is a serious concern, that 18 means 18. For some reason, the fact it’s on a video game doesn’t have the same impact with some parents. They’d never let their 12 year-old watch a BBFC 18 movie, but a baffling amount will happily hand over a copy of Modern Warfare 3.

Last week, for instance, a friend got in touch with me to ask about a games system for her son. He’s ten years old. We had a chat about it and she ended up getting him a 360. I packed up a bunch of promos I have sitting on my shelf, just to get him going. He was over the moon, but he’s been asking her for stuff his friends are playing. Like Skyrim, GTA IV, Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty. She stripped the obviously violent ones off the list – she instantly saw that Assassin’s Creed and CoD weren’t suitable – but she wasn’t sure about Skyrim.

To show her the sort of content included in an 18 cert game, I showed her Skyrim’s Unarmed Badass video. She was stunned. She told me one of her son’s friends has been playing GTA IV for the last two years. He’s now nine years old.

“Jesus Christ. It’s scary to think his friends, who are ten and some are nine, are playing games like this. Lord help us all.”

“We are going to murder some prostitutes.”
Perfect for the seven year-old son in your
life.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, and I doubt it’ll be the last. There seems to be something about these products that gives well-meaning, completely responsible parents ratings-blindness when it comes to games. If your kids’ peers are playing GTA, then why shouldn’t your kids be able to? If your next door neighbours think its OK, then why shouldn’t you?

Now, finally, the British government is taking the matter seriously. Retailers can now go to jail for supplying games to under-age consumers, forcing the issue directly into the hands of the parents. There’s no excuse any more, and you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. If you know parents who are giving youngsters 18-rated games, or allowing them to play them regardless of where they got them, ask them if they’re aware of what they contain. Say something. You may very well find that they have no idea, and will be horrified when they do.

Ask your children what they’re playing, and be sure you approve of it. A seven year-old, logically, should not be playing Grand Theft Auto IV. As I said, I’m a parent myself. I have three children, the eldest of which is six. The thought of her playing something like GTA next year is mindboggling. I would want a friend to tell me I was doing the wrong thing if I wasn’t aware I was doing so.

If UK politics can try to be responsible, so can you. Be good to your kids: they only get one childhood.

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vg247.com

Contributor: vg247.com   Posted: Jul 30, 2012 at 7:40am
Gaming Category: Gaming News
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